Thursday, May 31, 2012

Marilynne Robinson Week 5: The Hermeneutics of Suspicion is Suspect

Robinson, throughout The Death of Adam but especially in the essay on "Darwinism," is critical of the whole school of modern thought which believes that under the social and collaborative surface of life there is a deeper reality of selfishness and competition.  This is what Ricoeur called the "hermeneutics of suspicion," a wonderful comprehensive banner.  Robinson has in mind Darwin's own social thought, especially as he drew from Herbert Spencer.  She also includes Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, and most of economics in her indictment. They promote a social theory of fear, about which Robinson writes eloquently.

The social theory of fear, selfishness, and competition pictures our current world as if we were consumed with a desperate struggle for survival.  Yet the actual experience of most Americans is freedom from mere survival, and the freedom to enjoy the fruits of civilization. Robinson writes:

All the forms in which this freedom has been celebrated, all the arts and sciences and philanthropies, are only possible because civilization is intrinsically sociable and collaborative.


No comments: